Since its inception in 1989, the World Wide Web has evolved at such a rapid pace that the way we live and interact with the internet today is profoundly different. Due to its propensity to change dramatically, recent strides has made it necessary to classify the World Wide Web’s development into three broad stages. Its first stage, Web “1.0”, was an era spanning from the early-90s to 2005 (although the exact switch to “2.0” is an area of debate). Although not accessible to the average user, Web 1.0 applications were known for their simplicity and novel features.
At the time, the Web consisted mainly of hyperlinks that connected a plethora of static pages. There was no interactive content on the Web, just immutable pages of information (i.e., your favorite restaurant’s website provided information on its menu, history, location, etc. but its pages lacked features that allowed users to post their own reviews, questions, and so on). Although Web 1.0 proved sufficient for over a decade, it is mostly remembered today for its retro 90s aesthetic and limited applicability.
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The World Wide Web was flipped on its head in the early-2000s with the advent of blogging and social media platforms such as Friendster and MySpace.
No longer was the Web just a space for static information, but rather, the switch to Web “2.0” is best characterized by accessibility and the popularization of massive Web-based communities. Users and web publishers are now intertwined and no longer is it the case that only the technical-minded can navigate and contribute to the Web. Without any programming experience, websites like Facebook and Twitter provide users with all the tools necessary to create and publish their own content. Although user-generated content may seem the norm today, the jump to Web 2.0 was nothing short of novel, changing the world as we know it immensely. Based on their purpose, here is a list of the most popular Web 2.0 applications today:
- Social Networking: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace
- Communication: Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail
- Writing: WordPress, Blogger, Medium, SquareSpace, Tumblr
- Video and Podcasts: YouTube, Video.Google, ClickCaster
- Networking: LinkedIn, Piaxo, Plugoo, Bebo, Yahoo! 360
- Shopping: Amazon, Ebay, Craigslist
- Photography: Pinterest, Photobucket, Flickr, Imgur
There are thousands of Web 2.0 applications that the above list fails to exhaust. Ranging from services such as Yelp, eHow, IMDB and all Wikis, the sheer amount of Web 2.0 applications is truly staggering.
Right in the middle of Web 2.0’s development came the invention of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Since 2008, decentralized applications (dApps) built on blockchains have become plentiful, covering all the Web 2.0 applications listed above. Although as of 2018 we remain in the Web 2.0 stage, a new paradigm shift to Web “3.0” is unquestionably upon us. Since emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence have not yet reached their full potential, a sense of Web 3.0’s direction has yet to be clearly defined. However, we do know Web 3.0 will involve greater interaction between users and the World Wide Web, making lives easier and overhauling the e-commerce landscape and gaming communities. As the transition gains momentum, smart applications will likely lead the way in actualizing Web 3.0, immersing users further and further into a hyperconnected reality.
Since blockchain technology is in its infancy, dApps are considered part of the Web 3.0 paradigm although most are developed to satisfy Web 2.0 needs. For instance, Steemit, a popular dApp on the Steem blockchain, aims to revolutionize social networking as we know it. Through its economic model, where content creators are curated by users, quality content is incentivized through a microtransaction based reward system. Each upvote is rewarded with Steem, the Steem blockchain’s native cryptocurrency. Among the many benefits of such an economic model, which is now incorporated into other dApps such as DTube and dMania, the platform is able to remain ad-free. Many similar dApps do not sell or censor user-generated data since such data is not centrally stored. With all eyes on Facebook’s privacy issues following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the incentive to build powerful Web 3.0 dApps has never been greater. This image provides some examples:
As Web 3.0 applications continue to roll out both on blockchains and the World Wide Web at large, we will likely see massive shifts from conventional Web 2.0 services to those geared towards more privacy, security and user-interaction. It seems that decentralized blockchain technology is the only fungible option to host such Web 3.0 applications. In a way, the technology is designed to do just that.